Psychedelic Drug Stigma Is Beginning To Dissolve

As psychedelics make their way into mainstream medicine, step by careful step, there are still difficult questions people (and potential patients) want to have answered that amount to multiple elephants in the room.

What exactly are they? Who is saying that they are “medicine”, and why? Aren’t they all still illegal drugs that can seriously hurt people? Isn’t this “medicine” thing just a ploy to legitimize a banned recreational drug, like ecstasy (which was granted breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA)? 

Of course, the biggest elephant in the room that has become an enduring force promoting the stigma about psychedelics—that whole 1960s/1970s Timothy Leary-President Nixon-Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) illegal substance drug scheduling list deal—continues to be the main obstacle to research goals for psychedelics, and acceptance of psychedelics by the public.

Back then, a freaked-out U.S. government, with a criminal president trying to get a handle on the counter-culture youth in those times, created a law enforcement system where LSD and other psychedelics were declared the worst drugs on the planet. This declaration laid the foundation for the war on drugs that continues today.

But loudly whispered within the halls of health and wellness academia, and confidently chatted about inside the clinical labs creating a growing database of positive results from psychedelics, is a new perception of psychedelics that is slowly but surely shifting public perception.

A survey conducted in December 2021, by The Harris Poll, on behalf of Delic Holdings Corp. (OTC: DELCF), reported that nearly two-thirds of Americans who suffer from anxiety/depression/PTSD believe that psychedelic medicine (such as ketamine, psilocybin, and MDMA) should be made available to patients with treatment-resistant anxiety, depression or PTSD. 

According to the survey, among 953 U.S. adults who suffer from anxiety/depression/PTSD, nearly two-thirds of Americans who have used prescription medications to treat anxiety/depression/PTSD say that while the medication helped, they still experienced residual feelings of anxiety, depression or PTSD—18 percent say that the medication did not improve their condition, or made it worse.

 

Another survey published in June 2021, by the Irish Journal of Medical Science found that the majority of the 99 participants (72 percent) supported further research into psychedelics, with 59 percent supporting psilocybin as a medical treatment.

The survey also revealed that the stigma issue lives on: One-fifth of the total sample viewed psychedelics as addictive and unsafe even under medical supervision. Concerns included fear of adverse effects, lack of knowledge, insufficient research, illegality, and relapse if medications were discontinued.

Public opinion for some people about complicated topics such as pharmaceuticals for mental health can be based on their own research, or, more likely, on what the mental health professionals think. And the good/bad issue of psychedelics is equally divisive within the professional community.

For example, other research about the acceptability of psychedelics among psychiatrists found that, overall, psychiatrists perceived psychedelics as hazardous and “appropriately illegal.” Yet many expressed optimism about the future use of psychedelics in psychotherapy, adding that a better understanding of the beliefs among clinical and counseling psychologists “could help inform education and training needs in the psychologist workforce and help increase understanding about potential barriers to the dissemination of this treatment.”

Many researchers and psychedelic business developers understand that it’s time to really educate and enlist the public to help guide and accelerate development, while also bringing in more government help into the process, as the mental health crisis in this country gets worse. 

A 2018 commentary in Neuropharmacology magazine stated that there should be no illusion of the challenges that lay ahead in conducting psychedelics research: “By no means is this process a sprint, but instead be regarded as nothing short of a marathon. It will take committed, combined, and collegial leadership from all affected departments and agencies actively engaged to see this endeavor through. Given the enormity and immediacy of the mental health crisis, the lack of financial incentives for the private sector to engage in this research, and the sheer magnitude of research needed to determine the therapeutic efficacy of these agents, it’s in the federal government’s strategic interest to fund this field of research.”

Captain Sean Belouin, senior pharmacology and regulatory policy advisor for the U.S. Public Health Service commenting on a science-centered, research-guided mental health policy and the use of psychedelics, said that we must “seek the truth, through science, by pursuing research. We must have the acknowledgment, willingness, and resolve, to engage in clinically validating potential paradigm-shifting treatment endeavors, even when at times they may run counter to cultural norms, cherished ideologies, and time-honored belief systems. As a nation, if we can overcome fear and lead the world by putting humanity on the moon, we must overcome 50 years of legacy fear and lead in this research.”

Dave Hodes

David Hodes is a business journalist based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He has contributed feature articles to several cannabis and psychedelics publications, as well as general business/lifestyle publications, on a variety of topics. Hodes was selected as 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. He is a member of the National Press Club, and the deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.


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